Gatecreeper. Hands up in Europe who has heard of them? Exactly as I thought. This Arizona band have been together for all of three years and have decided to take their left-field brand of “SweDeath” metal and show the Swedes how to play old school death metal again. No joke.
Bands from Sweden who have reformed of late, namely Entrails and Evocation, play SweDeath to perfection and although Gatecreeper are a band in their infancy, they have somehow managed to release an album of Swedish death metal the way it was meant to be. The way the old gods have forgotten how to play it. The fact that a major player in the music business, Relapse Records, has picked these guys up speaks volumes of the potential these guys have…they truly have opened up doors for themselves with this release and I for one will be keeping both eyes firmly on their progress.
So what do we have here with Sonoran Depravation? Well first track “Craving Flesh” starts things off and immediately you get groove and that guitar sound. That buzz saw, grinding and defining guitar sound that displays how these Americans have perfected the Swedish sound. How is this possible? I suppose you have Swedish bands like Deranged who show off their American influences really well but how many American bands can you say want to sound like the Swedish days of old, especially of this calibre? The drums are mid-paced with this track and the riffs are mid-paced, as they are throughout the album.
Very rarely does this album pick up the pace; in fact there are no blast beats on this album at all which proves the fact that you can be heavy without the blast beats. “Craving Flesh” is a highlight for me off this album as it is just pure Entombed worship. Vocals courtesy of Chase Mason are more hardcore/sharp death metal vocals rather than the deep guttural growls on Left Hand Path for example, maybe more Martin van Drunen than John Tardy or Lars-Goran Petrov. However, they fit every song and tempo of each song so well and overall an excellent performance from Chase throughout the album.
Other highlights for me are the twisting mesmerising riff at the start of “Sterilized” and are prevalent throughout the song. Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that make things work and this works very well. There is no guitar wankery here; just brutal simple riffs put together in such a way that the songs just, well, flow. “Sterilized” almost has some slams towards the end but what it does have in it is plenty of opportunity for you to bang your head, get the old Entombed shirt out of your drawer and raise those horns.
“Patriarchal Grip” starts off with an almost Asphyx/Hail of Bullets doom/death sound and then when it starts to pick up the pace, I am hearing a lot of Bolt Thrower in the mix. You could say that if you miss Bolt Thrower – and I miss Bolt Thrower a helluva lot – you should listen to this one. You just feel as if you are going into battle and reliving the Warmaster days over again.
Another highlight that gets your head nodding is “Lost Forever”, with just that guitar sound being so goddamn heavy. There is nothing ground breaking with the riffs on any of the songs on this album but due to them being a major focal point of the whole album and sound, Eric Wagner is a master of creating huge, thunderous and nostalgic riffs that I personally just worship. To be frank, Eric has given this album a sound that makes me relive my youth again, like I was listening to Left Hand Path for the first time and this style of playing moves me more than 1000mph on the fret board any day. I mean, on “Rotting as One”…are you trying to tell me that at the middle of the song, Eric hadn’t just stopped listening to the end of Left Hand Path?
“Grotesque Operations” ends this album and being the only track anywhere near five minutes long, you just feel that the start of the song the battle is about to begin then “Charge!!” Again this is just Warmaster era Bolt Thrower, Entombed and Dismember worship at its best. Get the bullet belts, twenty-five year old shirts and just bang your head, start a pit or get on that stage. The way Gatecreeper set out their songs is to build up the tension, create the atmosphere, get on your knees and worship and then bang, let it all out. The drums courtesy of Matthew Arrebollo are generally slow to mid paced on this album but with the kick ass double bass, just makes everything as heavy as f**k. Unfortunately the bass of Sean Mears is mainly cut out due to the thickness of the guitars, but Sean still provides a solid foundation and rhythm that the band just feasts off.
Gatecreeper are a band that may not set the world on fire with originality, however, what they do is take the old school death metal, put in their own little deft touches and make it their own and release a thirty-three minute album of mesmerising riffs and songs that make you just want more. As Gatecreeper are new, it will be a massive challenge for them to better this debut. Other bands as stated at the start of this review, especially Entrails, have taken the sound from the early Swedish scene and garnered a fan base due to playing the old style like it was and was meant to be. Gatecreeper are going to do the same.
Sonoran Depravation may have opened the door ajar, its now up to Gatecreeper to show their full potential and show us what they have in store with their next release before that door opens new avenues for the band. Excellent album.
Sonoran Depravation is out now.